NASELLE - "The decision has been made for me after last night's school board meeting. I talked with my wife after the overwhelming show of support at the meeting and we have agreed that I will be back as superintendent of schools at Naselle-Grays River Valley. I will be happy to be back," Rick Pass stated last Wednesday at noon.
He said, "I hope I am worthy of the expectations the district has for me. I saw the support the people of the district have for me last night and I knew I had to come back to serve them and the great kids and staff we have here."
At the school board meeting 16 people spoke in support of Pass continuing as superintendent, including all five board members who had offered Pass the position during his year-long stint as interim superintendent. The NGRV school board includes Chairman Hollis Fletcher, Ed Darcher, Michelle Condon, Gilbert Haataia and newly appointed Bobby Torppa.
Community icon speaks up
Pass had submitted a letter March 9 in which he declined the offer to become full-time superintendent. Merle Hall, maintenance man at Naselle for many years and a community icon, according to Jeff Linquist who attended his first school board meeting to support Pass, said, "Rick, I wish you'd reconsider. We want to see you stay. You're a good man."
Veteran teacher Debbie Denny said, "I've been at Naselle 33 years and I've seen rotten school boards and rotten superintendents and I've seen very good ones. Right now we are a team. Rick's office door is always open. He is in the hallways and at outside events. This peanut politics is unhealthy. What will it take for you to stay, Mr. Pass?"
Pass answered after hearing others speak, "I want to thank you all for your support. I have been in education 32 years and there have always been naysayers. I am a positive guy when I was a coach for 14 years, when I was a principal at your sister school in Ilwaco, when I was superintendent at neighboring Knappa. I want to continue to be a positive person, but there has been a negative interference here."
When Ralph Crawford asked, "How many people are you talking about? Four, eight, more?" Pass answered, "Fewer than that."
Pass went on to say, "This is among the finest administrative teams I have ever worked with, but ever since the January board meeting things have gone downhill for me. It hasn't been the staff or the students, but the interference has come from one or two community members. I want to do what is best for Naselle schools and for my family. This hasn't been fun having to address the needs of adults when I should be concentrating on our mission to make this a great school for the students."
Pass added, "I don't like my heart racing. I don't mind producing public records when they are requested. I'm happy to meet the law, but I am tired of dealing with these distractions when I am trying to concentrate on making a great school even better."
Community member wants rules followed
Steve Gacke asked for an addition to the minutes of the March 16 meeting and the board denied his request. He later claimed that any actions taken by the board during meetings that were not audiotaped were "null and void" and that the lack of taping left "a dark cloud."
Gacke then said, "It is troubling to me that those that simply ask a question at a board meeting are called on the carpet and when the board chairman suggests suppressing negative attitudes will be a primary goal of the board it leads a reasonable person to ponder what is their objective and why aren't they instead working cooperatively and inclusively to resolve differences and embrace a diversity of views. This is very telling to me and is not appropriate for the national recognition this school has attained."
Gacke added, "The facts are board protocols are not being followed and the autocratic administration and board regime continues to operate covertly and unilaterally, actions have been taken without the knowledge or approval of the majority of the board, and laws have been broken resulting in the resignation of a board member. Those that question or substantiate operational concerns are being rebuked and marginalized."
Gacke stated, "For this board regime to regain any credibility they must begin to operate at the same high standards they expect of students, staff and community."
The tone of the meeting changed significantly after Hall's remarks. Karen Bertroch asked, "Is Naselle doing so well that some are angered?" NHS senior Devin Thompson, "I have been to seven different schools and by far this is the best one. I didn't even know we had a superintendent at the other schools and I see Mr. Pass at our games and track meets and in the hall all the time."
Chairman Fletcher said he would discuss Gacke's issues in a special session. Gacke has requested public records on four occasions, which amounted to copying about 111 pages of material and that asked for hand-written notes from a board meeting. Fletcher said, "These record requests have been a distraction to (district secretary) Marilyn Strange's ability to do her job."
Pass concluded, "It is a joy to see the kids from the Close-up Program here at the board meeting tonight and to see the kindergarten kids every day. But this stuff like anonymous letters does impact how I feel and that is why I thought it might be better for me to step aside."
Haataia said, "Whenever I get one of these anonymous letters I consider it garbage. I know Mr. Pass loves the kids and I don't want him to walk away." Denny added, "Someone has a hidden agenda. I wonder what the problem is. Are we at Naselle schools too successful?"
Naselle Youth Camp
Fletcher asked if there was anyone who had anything negative to say. Youth Camp teacher Mitzi Hunter offered, "I have seen the superintendent three times this year. I didn't even know he was superintendent when school started." Pass later said he had been to the NYC school on many occasions during the school year. Condon suggested, "We should include more communication with the Youth Camp School as part of Mr. Pass's goals." Pass said he would begin working on that by as early as next week.
Former board chairman Deanna Gjovik explained, "We had two weeks to hire a superintendent. If we had had more time we would have included community and staff input in our board decision. I feel we were very fortunate to have someone with the qualifications and skills Rick has. We offered an interim position to see how he worked out and he has done very well."
Darcher added, "I was just out at the camp and talked with Superintendent Poston for 15 minutes and he had nothing but positive things to say about Rick Pass."
Bertroch said, "We'll stick up for you." Her statement earned rousing applause, as did many of the other 16 positive testimonies during the board meeting. That overwhelming support was successful in convincing Rick Pass to stay on as superintendent.
Pass and the administrative team met Wednesday morning with the district's attorney to discuss yet another request from Allied Law Group of Seattle-Olympia on behalf of an unidentified client.